This film is about the true story of Emory University graduate, Chris McCandless played by Emile Hirsh (“The Lords of Dogtown,” “The Girl Next Door,” “Alpha Dog”) who goes on a backpacking journey through various states: Arizona, South Dakota, Colorado, and finally Alaskaâ€”his last stop. His parents are played by Marcia Gay Harden (“The Hoax,” “Mystic River”) and William Hurt (“Vantage Point,” “Tuck Everlasting”), and sister played by Jena Malone (“Saved,” “Donnie Darko”) narrates the story. There are a few cameo appearances as well, Kristin Stewart (“The Messengers,” “In the Land of Women”), Vince Vaughn (“The Wedding Crashers,” “Return to Paradise”), Catherine Keener (“Friends with Money,” “The 40 Year Old Virgin”) and Hal Holbrook (“The Majestic,” “Men of Honor”).
Into The Wild is a sad, yet happy story of a young man, 23, who takes a journey through various terrains of the United States. In the words of Chris’ sister Carine “He was emancipated from that world of distraction, false security, parents, and material excess.” She was relating the fact that Chris was his own person, wanted to leave his family and embark upon a journey of his own liking. In the beginning of the film, we learn that Chris’s father Walt (William Hurt) was married before and had a family. Chris’s mother, Billie met Walt during his marriage to another woman, and got pregnant with Chris. This was the beginning of a troubled life, which seemed to strike a nerve with Chris during his childhood. The film portrays fighting between the parents that left a certain void in the children (Chris and Carine) of what a real family was “supposed” to be like.
Chris’s sister Carine narrates the story that Chris would have ultimately told. Growing up, he and his sister endured the pain and suffering of their parents frustrations toward one another. This is what led Chris to separate himself from his family, take part in a journey of self-discovery, be one with nature, meet interesting people, find love, and most importantly forgive. In the words of Ron (Hal Holbrook) the last person he meets, “When you forgive, you love. And when you love, God’s light shines.”
I think Sean Penn, who wrote and directed the film, did a great job. Capturing actual events is a difficult task, though material was left out the movie makes the viewer realize the hardships of this young man. He wanted to live life to the fullest, but never was able to in his family life. Emile Hirsh did a fantastic job in the role of Chris. A lot of preparation was taken to understand Chris and it seemed like over the course of the film, you could see the depth how the character portrayal grew. His acting ability is rare and compared to other actors his age I think he will be at the top of his game in the next 10 years, he’s just getting started.
The more I watched this film, the more it made me wonder if Chris was even close to anyone during his younger years, or in college life (I haven’t read the book). Gathering from the events along his journey he was an old soul, looked up to elders, loved learning new things, and respected everyone he ran across. He just wanted to experience everything. From climbing Desert Mountains, fighting rapids, meeting interesting people, and singing a duet with a girl he barely new – to a crowd of people at a trailer park (sounds goofy – but was a nice moment in the film, where Chris is at ease with his new found female friend Tracy (Kristin Stewart).
The film echoes and reminded me of Forrest Gump’s journey, when he decided to start running, because he “felt like it.” Although, Chris never gave anyone a specific reason for his journey, there was a reason.
While I see this film as a one-time watch, it does leave us with the feeling of the human experience and how we should live every day to the fullest no matter what our background.
Review by Meredith A. Iager
Official site: http://www.intothewild.com/
Buy on Amazon: Into The Wild